How Walking Improved My Daily Life

Originally published on Thrive Global on December 30, 2016. 

My boss is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Before she left for Tanzania, I asked her how she was going to do it. We are almost the same age and she is in amazing shape, but from what I know (and I am her executive assistant, so I am OMNISCIENT), she has NOT been preparing specifically for this event.

“Hello? Altitude!”

She said, “I’m too busy to get nervous about it.”

That’s her in a nutshell. Always on the move. That’s probably why she is so successful. She is action-oriented and only stops long enough to think (or get nervous) about the really important stuff.

I have always been very active, but now that I am in the menopausal trenches, everything has changed. They say that you will experience “hot flashes,” but what they don’t prepare you for is the fireball, Tasmanian Devil, Fairy Godmother with a fistful of sparklers igniting everything in its path INSIDE YOUR BODY followed by a full body sweat explosion. Repeatedly.

I began complaining about my inactivity and how being trapped in my cubicle has contributed to an estimated 20 pounds of weight-gain in the last year (not sure because I am NOT stepping on a scale until my jeans fit again). I said, “sitting is the new cancer, y’know.”

She said, “go get a pair of Hokas and start walking.”

I said, “what the hell are Hokas?”

“Hiking shoes. Just go get some.”

So I raced over to REI in Santa Monica and tried on a pair. Music cue: Hallelujah Chorus! They’re like little buttery, Tempur-Pedic clouds for my feet!

Okay. If she can climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I can walk to work. I decided I would do it every day she was on the mountain and I would return home in the evenings via the L.A. Metro bus. So the day she was headed to base camp, I hit the road at 6:30 AM from my home in Studio City and walked approximately 8 miles to my office in Century City.

There is nothing more peaceful than watching the sun come up to the rhythm of your own footsteps. My grandpa never missed a sunrise and one day I asked him why. He was a Southern Baptist preacher and he said, “I wouldn’t do God like that!”

Deepak Chopra said, “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there — buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” Walking can be a form of meditation and I made a decision to take advantage of the early morning hours to not only begin to heal my body, but to enter the quiet of my mind. So rather than listen to music as I often do when I walk, I consciously tucked my iPhone and earbuds away in my backpack except to occasionally pull it out to dictate a meditation-inspired phrase or two into my notes.

I figured out a peaceful route that would take me through both Fryman and Franklin Canyons. I saw several of the same people on those mornings and only a few cars before walking through the Beverly Hills neighborhood near the bottom of Coldwater Canyon. I saw many birds, a coyote, and I discovered a populated duck pond in Franklin Canyon near the reservoir. While attempting to capture a photo of a blue jay, I heard an unsettling sound. Beehive! I stopped to listen and in just a few moments, the sound became interesting and was no longer unsettling.

Back on Kilimanjaro, my boss was emailing me all the way from base camp. I asked her to stop micromanaging and then ducked for cover in case my cubicle was equipped with a keyword sensory boobie–trap. What I didn’t realize in that moment was that, on opposite sides of the globe, we were both experiencing a new type of inner peace. After her base camp emails, I didn’t hear from her for several days until I received a GPS location link and a text from her satellite phone that said “Kilimanjaro has been summited!!” In order to climb that mountain, she had no other choice but to be fully present.

It has been two weeks and I feel better in my body because I’m taking better care of it, but I also feel better in my body because I am taking better care of my mind. Weight is just a number. It doesn’t matter how much I weigh. I am grateful that my body has the power to carry me through whatever I need it to.

On consecutive days, I saw multiple sunrises, became aware of how much wildlife actually exists in this city and I heard the incredible sounds of nature. One morning it began to rain and just giving in to the idea that the worst that was going to happen was that I would arrive at work in wet clothing was liberating. I am breathing more deeply, thinking more clearly and keeping the important stuff in focus.

Freedom exists in the knowledge that I can get where I need to go by the power of my own body and a decent pair of shoes. I have lived most of my life in Los Angeles and have always been warned about the “big earthquake” that is coming. If and when that happens, I know I will be able to put on my Hokas and walk through the rubble in a meditative state. There is power in that.

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